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Opinion: No winners in the Venezuela election

Johan Ramirez
Johan Ramirez
December 8, 2020

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's authoritarian head of state, only appears to have emerged stronger from the elections, says DW's Johan Ramirez.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro votes at a polling station
Image: Fausto Torrealba/REUTERS

December 6 will go down in Venezuelan history as a sombre day of defeat. The parliamentary elections held by the authoritarian head of state, Nicolas Maduro, are a disgrace for the South American country, run down over the course of decades by caudillos, dictators and corrupt politicians.

Both the government and the opposition emerged as losers on Sunday, the day of the election. All of Latin America and the international community lost, too, but the most painful loss is that of the 30 million Venezuelans who suffer daily under the endless crisis, and of those who fled the chaos and live scattered around the world.

Control over parliament

Even if Maduro's party achieved its aim of taking control of Parliament, the government still lost because it went so far as to threaten the Venezuelans with a "hunger quarantine" if they did not vote. Despite all that, voter turnout was only 31%. The greatest humiliation for tyrants is when the people are no longer afraid of them.

When the new National Assembly meets for the first time on January 5, Maduro will have a servient Parliament at his disposal. But he has lost the tiny shred of credibility he still had among leftist ideological hardliners. How do they plan to stand up for a regime that usurps other parties to force them to participate in rigged elections?

Johan Ramirez
DW's Johan Ramirez was prevented from entering Venezuela to report on the electionImage: Privat

Maduro fired the leaders of the opposition groups and appointed his own supporters in their place, who then declared themselves willing to participate in the election. The variety of parties on Sunday's ballot was a farce fit for a circus.

The opposition lost, too, on Sunday. Not because of the results that were fixed months in advance. It lost because over the five years it controlled the National Assembly, it proved incapable of living up to the trust the people placed in it in 2015. The opposition lost because it was unable to translate the hopes of almost 8 million Venezuelan voters into policies. The opposition lost because it was clumsy and arrogant after its 2015 victory.

After five years, it leaves behind a deplorable record: no laws to protect the weakest members of society, no decrees worth remembering, no political project that could serve as a legacy. Juan Guaido, head of the opposition and self-proclaimed interim president, also lost because at the end of his second term as president of the National Assembly, he did not fulfill his biggest promise: replacing Nicolas Maduro.

Juan Guaido: Majority in Venezuela want change

Worthless protest

The international community is another loser of an electoral farce that revealed the impotence of diplomatic mediation attempts. Both the states of the so-called Lima Group and the international contact group have thoroughly embarrassed themselves. The European Union's protest notes were worthless lip service and Donald Trump's threats were nothing but pompous ramblings. On Sunday, Maduro defied them all again and made fun of them. It is a dangerous warning for a region that does so well for autocrats. An unscrupulous government can do whatever it wants without the international community intervening.

The Venezuelan people suffered the greatest defeat, however. It doesn't matter who sits in the plenary hall if no one can point the way out of the crisis.

A day after the parliamentary elections, the country continued its drowsy state of decline. People headed to supermarkets to pay millions for groceries, standing in lines that stretch over miles to put gas in their cars in an oil-rich country. They worry about their emaciated children and about hospitals that constantly have power outages and no water.

Families are torn apart because the young people decide to leave Venezuela in search of a future their country cannot offer them. On December 6, there were only losers in Venezuela. Election victories are worthless if they do not lead to solutions for the people's problems.

This article was translated from German